Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Computer Geniuses in trouble...

A student at Florida A & M got a 22 month sentence for changing over 100 grades through that school's computer system. It appears he also helped out some friends by changing them from out-of-state to in-state status, so that they owe far less tuition.

Some thoughts:

1) I'm kind of surprised this was a federal case. However, there has been a huge increase in federal statutes governing computer fraud/identity theft type wrongs. I think that it seems like a good idea to punish those cases, but rarely is it asked if it must be a federal crime. One of the areas where the idea of federalism has most gone astray is criminal law, because of issues like this that federal politicians cannot resist jumping on.

2) Aren't you maybe just a little bit impressed with this guy? It's too bad he used his skills for eeeevil....

I think he was also tagged under wire fraud.

But yes, I was impressed.
I am not impressed with his skills. Who cares about computers? I can kill a man from 40 feet with nun chucks. THAT is a skill, and also a state crime. Booya.
Kind of a Robin Hood crime, but I do see the Federal implications. I hope that someone sees the potential in this individual and offers hope of a second chance down the road.
Maybe Bank of America, Chase, etc. can hire him to hack into the Treasury Department's servers and change the grade of their stress test.
A kid, hacks the school's network and changes grades and information. Is it just me or does this sound like a 21st century, college age, episode of the "The Andy Griffith Show." Formally reprimanded? Kicked out of school? Large fine or thoughtful community-service oriented sentence? Yes to all of the above. 22 month in federal prison for a computer savant? Um.... Something about that seems unwise, disproportionate, and a misuse of national resources. GED3or Osler can either of you comment on the rationale?

So is it a federal crime because the internet knows no state boundaries? If he confined himself to messing only with Florida A & M's computer system, it seems like it should only be a state crime. And the lower tuition paid by his friends only affected the state, too. Crazy . . . and yes, I agree the sentence seems too stiff. If he did this in high school, like you said, Matt (under age 18), would he get charged criminally at all?

I agree, it does have serious implications . . but the punishment doesn't seem to fit the crime . . .
Nice photo.
Seems like about 21 1/2 months too many.
I am not a lawyer (almost used the acronym, but it looked too anal), but it would seem to me that those concerned with this would've been able to trace the IP address, and if perhaps state lines were transgressed, then it would indeed be a Federal case.

That said, Swissgirl might be onto something, in that the internet does know no boundaries.

We probably need more cybersleuths/spies/hackers nowadays, and we'll have an even greater need for them as time goes on. Why not recruit these folks and put their minds to cyberwarfare, counter-terrorism, or forensic accountancy (i.e. Madoff)?
Perhaps the student did Florida A&M and the state a favor by showing yet another weakness at the University. The University has many weaknesses as I have read over the years in the SP Times. Their marching band however is not one of their weaknesses.

They are wasting time by putting the student in jail. They should hire them to fix the evidently broken computer system. That would be better use of my tax dollars!
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